Watching for war

Aug 6, 2016     Errol   0 Comment     Uncategorized

The 5th Eye, a feature-length documentary examining the role of New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau, focuses on events near and far, writes Shane Gilchrist.

On an April morning in 2008, Adrian Leason, Sam Land and Fr Peter Murnane breached security and deflated a giant radome at the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim.

On their arrest, the trio cited the use of the facility as an intelligence-gathering tool for the Five Eyes alliance as the reason for their act.

Film-makers Abi King-Jones and Errol Wright’s response to this and subsequent events was to make a film exploring not only the motivations of the trio but of the big players within the Five Eyes global intelligence-sharing alliance; thus the cast of The 5th Eye could be read to include the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and, until its recent withdrawal, Canada.

Charged with intentional damage and entering a property with the intention to commit a crime, the “Waihopai 3” were found not guilty, a verdict that came nearly two years after their act of protest.

Even before that decision by an 11-person jury, the trio had made more than a few ripples.

At their trial at the Wellington District Court, the trio’s testimony included references to the GCSB’s use of surveillance to aid the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As King-Jones notes: “A core theme of the film is the inherent relationship between mass surveillance and military outcomes.

“They are the key functions of the Five Eyes system and the Waihopai base.

“We wanted to make the point that New Zealand is a part of this system that has ramifications for people globally, and not just in terms of mass surveillance, but also warfare, particularly in the Middle East.

“This is also what drove the Waihopai 3, this idea that we need to care about the ramifications of our actions overseas.”

Fellow film-maker Wright says a key point of The 5th Eye was to focus on events close to home and much further away.

“I went to a protest in Blenheim in 2008. The Waihopai 3 were scoping out the base at the time. I didn’t know that, but three months later they were in the newspapers. I then started following their story.”

In the years since the Waihopai 3’s action, other events relating to the GCSB and Five Eyes unfolded, including:

• The 2012 police raid on Kim Dotcom (following an FBI request that New Zealand help investigate Dotcom’s file-sharing business Megaupload) eventually led to the revelation that a further 88 New Zealanders had been targeted in surveillance operations by the GCSB.

• The Government then enacted controversial legislation allowing the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders.

• Disclosures from NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed mass surveillance by the Five Eyes network.

“Everything started unfolding,” Wright says.

“None of this was apparent when these guys did their action.”

That wider perspective is the reason it took Wright and King-Jones two years to edit their film.

“We only finished it two weeks ago,” King-Jones says.

“We had such a wealth of material to go through, both locally and internationally.

“Of course, we couldn’t include it all, but we had to sort through it all to work out how to bring it back to the story about the Waihopai 3 going through the court system.”

Screenings

• Monday, August 8, Rialto Cinemas Dunedin, 6pm

• Tuesday, August 9, Rialto Cinemas Dunedin, 3.15pm

-Shane Gilchrist, Otago Daily Times, https://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/film/watching-war

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